The magic, the simplicity, the addiction, the system, the method, the people, the knowledge, the behind-the-scenes look at a 70 year old yoga tradition
In 1992, beaten and bruised by a perfectly harmless, and ordinary city life, I arrived at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Nataraja Centre, in East of Kailash in New Delhi. I was led there by the wisdom, the kindness, the enormous vision, and the love of my late father. He was five-foot-something-giant of a human being, a true leader, who, invisible himself, created possibilities for others to thrive. He was someone who participated actively in the creation of a happy family and community through discipline, hard and tireless work, ethics, boundless energy, high morals, self-pride, humility, sharing and giving. My father was my first yoga model, for sure.
As with a lot of newcomers, I was innocent to yoga and the miraculous journey ahead. I arrived in some considerable pain, in my lower back.
There was pain in other parts of my being as well, with a career not going my way, finances which were less than what I told myself I deserved, and a personal life which was far from perfect. I was about to enter the five most traumatic years of my life, in which I would lose my father, would lose two jobs, and have many reasons to lose hope.
And I did not know this then, there was latent anxiety, tension, and a mind stretched taut.
Tense and anxious about what, you may ask. Soon after I started practicing yoga, from the very first class, I realized that what was on the surface of my being was not reflective of inner realities. I just tense about everything. A hidden, underlying tension was always there. There was a general unease, and dissatisfaction.
I was tired of my earthly journey at age 29, wondering where I was going, and what was to become of me.
From the autumn of 1992, to springtime in 1993 I turned a new leaf. I shed my sad, often lonely personality and sprouted a fresh, new look. It was as if, for the first time in my life, I had been properly nourished and fed. My back pain disappeared, and I became well again. I shed years from my face and my being, and found back my sense of humour, and that inherent optimism for life.
My story is not mine alone. People who come to a Sivananda class have a reason why they come. But oftentimes they do not remain and practice the system because of that reason. That initial reason for coming soon becomes insignificant, and the student starts discovering the abundant benefits which yoga offers. Like me, many are hooked for life.
If you are one of the lucky people who have a Sivananda Centre within a reasonable distance from where you live, try out a class. And give yourself three months. Chances are that you will frequent the Centre indefinitely and thereby give yourself a lifelong gift of health, harmony and peace of mind.
In January 1995, once again in an act of innocence, I registered for and did the International Sivananda Teachers’ Training Programme. If I thought that yoga had given me a chance at life once more, I had not imagined what becoming a Sivananda teacher would give me. I fell in love with the whole experience of yoga.
It became possible for me to share what I had got with others, in a deeply satisfying way. Teaching a Sivananda class is a blessing for me, and a gift and my good luck, because it helps me nourish the core of my being. It fulfills what is innate in all of us – a deep, deep desire to be of use, to be able to care, to have a life which is fruitful to others, and to be able to make a difference.
Loving others has made me love myself. Looking after others has made it necessary for me look after myself. Having compassion for others has made me patient and compassionate of myself. Understanding my limitations, and my inherent laziness has made me help others beyond theirs.
It has been a journey from ignorance to innocence, from grimness to laughter, from complexity to simplicity, from illness to wellness, from being alone to being in harmony, from disturbance to steadiness, from sadness to joy, from darkness to light and from untruth to clarity.
In the Sivananda class as designed by Swami Vishnudevananda, you get a chance to experience the benefits of an ancient Indian practice of Hatha yoga. You get good all round exercise, you get to breathe properly and with awareness, and you get, best of all, deep relaxation.
There is magic in